The clock is ticking as you think about what you want to do about graduate school. Whether it’s a master’s in business administration or a medical, law or seminary degree, 35 percent of Milligan students graduate with a bachelor’s degree and move on to grad school.

According to Beth Anderson, Milligan’s director of calling and career exploration, if you’re interested in furthering your education, your junior year is the time to start looking at how you can acquire a graduate degree.

If you are a bit late to the game and are entering the last semester of your senior year, don’t fret. Anderson has set up a quick guide to help you see where you need to be.

Step 1: Look deep within yourself.

Anderson recommends looking at why you want a graduate degree. Graduate school is no easy feat and not something to be taken lightly. If you want a graduate degree simply because your parents are paying for it and you don’t want to get a job yet, it may not be the best idea.

For some, it’s good to look at when you need to go to graduate school. Sometimes it is better to wait a year (or six) to go back to school. It could be that you might be in a better financial situation in a few years, and in some cases graduate programs require a certain amount of experience.

It is impossible to know what graduate program is relevant to your interests if you don’t research what you want to do.

Obviously, if being a medical doctor is in your future, you are required to have a doctorate to get a job, but if you are a communications or business major, you have options. Some programs are extremely specific, like a master’s in folklore or educational technology, and some are very broad, like a master’s in mass communications.

Lastly, and possibly the most intimidating thing to consider: Can you afford it? Graduate school, on top of being immensely stressful, is also pretty expensive.

Step 2: Research, research and more research.

Every program, school and application is different. Requirements change and differ depending on what program you are interested in. In your research endeavor, it would help to have around 10 programs you would like to look into.

Look into the cost of tuition, whether it’s accredited, whether they offer assistantships to help with financial aid, whether they have financial aid and how many months or years it would take. Sure, it’s an insane amount of information to take in, but knowing everything that a school will entail will be so beneficial in the long run.

Once you are finished perusing the options, try to weed out the ones you’re not as interested in.

When it is narrowed down to two or three programs, look into the application process further. Some programs require the GRE, LSAT, GMAT or other specialized test. Some creative programs require a portfolio of work. They could also require a statement of purpose with specific points that have to be included and references from your major professor.

Step 3: Fulfill the requirements.

If the application asks for an essay, write the essay.

If you have to take a test, take the test.

Many tests are offered at East Tennessee State University, and there are also opportunities and resources in Milligan’s library to study. If you are worried about getting a high enough score, then it is always good to call the admissions office at the preferred school and ask what the last class’ average scores were.

Step 4: Actually apply.

After you have narrowed the options down, taken the tests and exhausted your research abilities, it’s time to sit down and apply.

This is a long and tedious process, especially if there are essays. However, after you press that “send” button, it’s all out of your hands and you simply wait. If everything is up to par, some schools will begin interviews.

Anderson’s office is in the lower level of the Student Union Building, and she hosts many mock interviews.

Step 5: Get accepted and search for a way to pay.

Good news! Now that you’ve been accepted, you get to look at how to pay for another year(s) of school!

Don’t worry; it can be hard at times, but it can also be easy.

Note that your parents are no longer in charge of your federal aid, so you will have to fill out the FAFSA on your own. This can have some good implications if you’re not making a ton of money.

When it comes to tuition, you should have also done some research about scholarship and assistantship opportunities. Some students choose to go back to their home state and receive in-state tuition. In some cases, businesses will pay for graduate school if students work there after they graduate.

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